What brings revival?

fire1animTwo posts ago, I suggested that the problems that face America are spiritual problems. They require spiritual solutions. We can’t fix our country through political, economic, environmental, or social means. We need God. This requires REVIVAL… an outpouring of God’s power on the Church that then spills into the broader culture, bringing down the blessing of God on our land.

You can check out that post here.

This raised a great question from one commenter:  Aside from prayer is there anything we can do to bring about revival?

That’s today’s topic… and it’s a dicey one.  Because there are two major contradictory viewpoints.  Here goes:


finneyAn early American evangelist named Charles Finney popularized this view. Finney travelled the length and breadth of this country in the mid-1800’s, and saw hundreds of thousands of conversions. Research showed that an astounding 80% of his converts remained true to the Lord years later… compare that to the great D.L. Moody, (and pretty much every other evangelist)  who saw a 70% drop-off in the first year.  Finney’s ability to screw the gospel into a hearer’s soul was legendary.

In his Lectures on Revival, Finney, trained as a lawyer, and a convinced Arminian (critics call him a Pelagian) argued that revivals were the predictable outcomes of “means.” When God’s people used the means, God’s Spirit sent the revival.

This made revivals predictable. It also made them dependent on the church’s actions.

To draw down a revival, the church must come to God in humility, brokenness, sincerity, and repentance. We must repent of our lukewarmeness. Christians must first restore their first Love of Jesus, and then seek God to revive the church and transform the world.  The church must pray, pray, pray for revival.  Ministers must unite for prayer. Christians must gather for prayer. If God’s people will do this fervently, God will most definitely send revival.

It’s hard to argue with Finney’s results… he was instrumental in leading the Second Great Awakening, the revival that made America an essentially Christianized nation.

But a large camp of dedicated Christians disagrees with Finney.


Our more Calvinistic friends land here. We can neither call down a revival, nor predict when one will occur. The energy level of the church cannot be maintained at fever-pitch for a long time without becoming manipulative.

lloyd-jonesOne of my favorite authors, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, advocated this position. He lived with a heartfelt longing for revival. His book, Revival, is a classic, and has really shaped my views.

The cool thing is that Lloyd-Jones, a staunch Calvinist, still advocated the “use of means.” The church cannot create revival or call down revival or predict revival. But we could prepare for revival, and seek it with all our hearts.

G. Campell Morgan, Lloyd-Jones predecessor, taught, We cannot organize revival, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from Heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.

This is where I land. I believe that a revival is a sovereign bestowal of God. The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, in the Bible, repeat numerous stories from other books in the Bible.  But there’s a slant on what stories get repeated and what stories get left out.  The slant is REVIVAL.  The books chronicle the moments of Revival among the Jews.

In every case, there was a sudden, spontaneous return to God by large numbers of lapsed believers. In every case, there was a highlighting of the importance of the Word. Righteousness and justice were restored. Holiness returned. Love prevailed.

The Book of Acts chronicles revival in the early church. What else can you call it when 3,000 people come the Lord in one sermon?

The timing was the Lord’s alone. But the people were busy preparing their hearts.

What can we do? Set our sails. Pray. Seek God’s face THROUGH HIS WORD. Turn away from our own power, and use the power of God. Turn away from legalism, and restore the message of Grace.  Above all, spotlight Jesus.  Proclaim and gossip and live the gospel of “Christ Crucified.”

Stephen Olford wrote, Revival is ultimately Christ Himself, seen, felt, heard, living, active, moving in and through His body on earth.”

What can we do? Set our sails. Pray. Seek God’s face THROUGH HIS WORD. Turn away from our own power, and use the power of God. Turn away from legalism, and restore the message of Grace.  Above all, spotlight Jesus.  Proclaim and gossip and live the gospel of “Christ Crucified.”

Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The church has her ordinary days and her extraordinary days. And most of them are ordinary.”

bonnke3He went on to say that it is in the ordinary days–when there is no revival, when the light seems dim, when the heavens seem closed to our prayers, and when we feel no special touch from God–it is in the ordinary days that we need to be found FAITHFUL. Plugging away at maturity in the Lord. Growing deep in the Word, growing strong in prayer, growing joyfully sacrificial in service, growing generous in lifestyle. In the ordinary days, we plow the fields, and break up the hard ground, so that the seeds of revival can take root and blossom at God’s appointed time. In the ordinary days, we walk with Jesus, and lay up great spiritual strength for trials ahead.

We can’t rely in hype. We can’t rely on getting psyched up.  We can only rely on the supernatural divine resources made available by God’s Spirit through God’s Word–perfect resources for every adversity and opportunity–and seek God to revive his people.

Click here for some cool quotes on revival.

Click here for some excellent missions and evangelism quotes.

2 thoughts on “What brings revival?

  1. OK, a question for you: Is revival for the believer or the non-believer? I think of revival as coming back to life, back from the dead.

    In reading the quotes you gave above, you could think both groups have been included. How could a born-again Christian be brought back to life? Doesn’t seem possible to me. Re-energized, re-newed, re-focused….yes, but revived? The lost world needs revival because they are indeed dead. Of course, they are dead and never alive, so I’m answering my own question according to my definition that they come back again to life…..

    See? that’s why I have a question….

  2. That’s a rare photo of Finney. Is there a larger version of this that I could make a painting from? Thanks, Doug. If you can’t access my email address, search ‘intro to the Bible/Doug Gibson’ on youtube videos.

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